On Thursday, Obama is expected to attend a GCC summit that comprises Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Oman.
The recent talks President Barack Obama held with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and other Arab Gulf leaders in Riyadh may have allayed some of their fears and anxieties about the USA policy towards Iran and also vis-à-vis regional conflicts, especially the war in Syria.
However, no major announcements came out of the summit as Obama is already a lame-duck president, said Saeed al-Lawindi, political researcher and expert of global relations at Cairo-based Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies. He urged all parties to abide by a nascent cease-fire in Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition is fighting on the side of an internationally recognized government against Shiite rebels and their allies.
Concerns about IS extremists were also on the agenda for Obama’s meeting late Wednesday in Riyadh with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi and a key Emirati leader, the White House said.
Obama says the U.S.is in contact with various factions inside Iraq and is encouraging them to finalize the makeup of a governing cabinet.
Footage and photographs aired on state media showed the leaders at a large circular table under a chandelier.
Mustafa Alani, a security analyst at the Gulf Research Center, said the Saudi decision not to dispatch a high-level delegation to greet the president was unusual and meant to send a clear message that they have little faith in him. “The Saudis had disagreements with previous presidents”.
Obama was recently quoted in a U.S. magazine interview commenting on the “complicated” nature of the U.S.-Saudi relationship, and describing some some Gulf and European states as “free riders” who called for U.S. action without doing enough themselves. It remains to be seen how receptive Riyadh will be to Washington considering the latter’s estrangement with it lately.
The Middle East is mired in a contest for influence between a bloc of mostly Sunni countries, including the conservative, pro-Western Gulf monarchies, and revolutionary Shi’ite Iran and its allies.
The Persian Gulf nations, Saudi Arabia in particular, have repeatedly raised concerns that the nuclear deal reached with Iran past year will further empower the Islamic Republic to interfere in Arab affairs.
Obama praised Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi as a “good partner” for the US, and he noted that Iraq’s current political challenges don’t fall along traditional sectarian fault lines – Sunni, Shia, Kurdish.
U.S President Barack Obama said Gulf countries in the Middle East must be able to work together despite their differences, whether that is dealing with Iran or maintaining a stable, unified government within a country such as Iraq.
After departing Riyadh on Thursday, Obama will travel to London and Hannover, Germany.